McCartney: Lennon and Harrison would have approved of Rock Band

Full extent of Paul, Yoko and Olivia's involvement in game is revealed

Sir Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison have said that John Lennon and George Harrison would have approved of The Beatles: Rock Band - and shed some light on how they came to agree to going ahead with the game.

"I think they would have been amused," McCartney said in yesterday's Observer Music Magazine feature, as reported by Eurogamer. "I think they would have seen the point of it.

"For us, let's remember that the central thing is our music is getting played. That's the bottom line. I'm sure John and George would have thought, 'Hey, what a clever idea.'"

"[John] would have been excited about the Rock Band concept, and very happy with how the music and the visuals of the Beatles were represented," said Lennon's widow Ono.

"It will inspire and encourage the young generation to be intimately involved in music making," she added. "You can't ask for more. It will be another musical revolution created by the Beatles to make our planet a planet of music."

"I hate to say, but I know I'm [George's] biggest fan and biggest critic, and I'm happy with it," Olivia Harrison said. "I think they did a great job, and if I didn't like it I would feel very uncomfortable."

Getting their approval wasn't plain sailing, however, the Beatles "shareholders" revealed.

McCartney's initial impression of Rock Band was of "a couple of grown-ups standing looking very foolish with these little plastic guitars playing to a screen", he said. "And we're going, 'Yeah, all right… It just looks like a really bad band.'"

He was eventually won around by Harmonix's dedication to presenting the Beatles' music. "They've done it very respectfully, and so they should," said Sir Paul. "Not just because you should respect the Beatles, but mainly because there are a lot of people out there who are going to notice if you don't."

But McCartney, Ringo Starr and Lennon and Harrison's widows still presented Harmonix with plenty of hoops to jump through. "We did get very hands-on," McCartney said.

They were particularly concerned with the visual representations of the Beatles. Ono and Harrison gave the animation teams "quite a hard time", according to Harmonix's Alex Rigopulos, as did McCartney, an animation fan, who insisted the work should be of feature film quality.

"We said: 'Look, the eyes don't work.' They said: 'No, eyes are very hard to do...' Then: 'Wait a minute, John's too wooden...' I started to say, 'Look, Shrek's good. There's this great thing, Arthur and the Invisibles, the Luc Besson film.' So I started to give them things to aim at," he said.

There were other hurdles to overcome before Apple Records could give their approval, notably a technical solution to splitting out the instrumental parts on the basic early recordings, and a stipulation that "it needs to feel analogue, it needs to feel British, and even though it's a videogame, it shouldn't feel computery," according to Harmonix's Josh Randall.

Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George and a key figure in the project, revealed that he was initially quite sceptical.

"I was thinking, 'Am I making a Beatles Zippo lighter or a Beatles plastic tray?' I was snooty about it at first – 'Oh God, we're just making a game,'" he admitted. But he came to see the value of music videogames in making the player pay attention to the way songs are constructed.

"There's part of me, being a musician, that wants to say, 'Why don't you go and play a proper guitar and not play a plastic one?' But what I do like about it is that it makes us listen to the music again and again, in the way that we used to when we bought albums. As opposed to having 3,000 songs on your iPod which you flick through with obsessive button pressing. These days we do hear a lot of music, but we don't actually listen to it very often."

The Beatles: Rock Band will be released on September 9.

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